Ofsted and the Department for Education repeatedly stress the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum at Key Stage 3. Teachers also appreciate that it has benefits for their teaching as well as their students. Over four-fifths of them (82%), according to our survey, say they would find teaching less enjoyable if they were forced to teach a curriculum driven largely by exams.
But to understand where children stand as they enter secondary school in Year 7, Trusts need to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses to identify their potential as well as any hidden barriers to learning.
Many Trusts, however, have reasonable concerns. They do not want to replace one accountability straitjacket – forcing children onto a premature GCSE flight path – with another, high-stakes assessment at Key Stage 3. When the DfE surveyed teachers about workload a few years ago, over half said it was a serious problem with many citing data management as a cause.
How then can Trusts assess students at Key Stage 3 without adding to teacher workload? The important thing to bear in mind, says Hilary Fine, Head of Product at GL Assessment, is there is no reason why assessment should be intrinsically onerous for teachers. “Assessment should be smart, reliable and easy to use. It shouldn’t be a burden to teachers. So digital, standardised assessment that is robust and allows teachers to compare their children nationally is ideal.”
Kieran Scanlon, Principal of Sir Robert Woodard Academy, part of the Woodard Academies Trust, agrees. His school uses the KS3 Assessment Package from GL Assessment. “As the assessments are pre-created and automatically marked, we don’t need to worry about adding to teacher workload and we don’t release the tests in advance so students don’t worry about preparing.”
To discover what good assessment looks like at Key Stage 3 and to see how a broad-based curriculum can help challenged schools get back on track, download the full report.